December 9, 2023 [courtesy EKartingnews]

The final day of competition was held on Saturday for the 2023 Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals. The 384 drivers from over 60 countries converged on the Bahrain International Karting Circuit for one final time, with only the main events on the docket. Perfect weather conditions set the stage for the nine main events to be contested on the 14-turn, 1.414km circuit, crowning this year’s Rotax Grand Finals winners. It was an up and down day for Team USA, enjoying the success of an on-track victory by Lucas Palacio in Micro MAX only to see it slip away following post-tech inspection. 12-time Team USA member Derek Wang led the squad with a sixth-place result in DD2 Masters to match his career best finish.

At the conclusion of the podium ceremony, Rotax announced the 2024 edition will return to the Circuito Internazionale Napoli in Italy on October 19-26.

Below is a breakdown of the Saturday performance and comments from drivers in Bahrain.


DD2 – Birel ART (72 Drivers)

#451 – Race Liberante

Hometown: Palmdale, California

Qualified: Second Highest US Trophy Series Finisher

RMCGF Appearances: 0

Overall Points: 28th – 88 points

Warm-up Final: 5th – 52.866 +0.241

Final: 28th +35.312 – 52.900

After the heartbreak of getting wrecked at the start of the Prefinal, taking away the hopes of starting the Final inside the top-15, Liberante tried to avoid the carnage that was anticipated in the back of the DD2 Final. Lap three sent Liberante all the way to the tail of the field, as he was able to fight back to 20th at the line. A pushback bumper penalty dropped him down the final order to close out his first Rotax Grand Finals.

“The final was absolutely insane. There were karts flying everywhere in front of me on the first lap. I probably had contact 3-4 times per lap for the first four laps. I was moving forward and got t-boned, fell back. Then I got spun out in turn 8 by a driver five karts back that blew the brake zone. Fell to last and drove it back up to while bent up.”

“My experience here, although it being up and down, was still phenomenal. It’s not just another race, you’re representing your country in the closest thing we have to parity in the sport right now at the best facilities in the world. They put together an amazing event that I hope to be a part of for years to come. However, they do have some things they need to work on to tie the whole event together on track to match how amazing it is off. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I hope I made everyone proud despite mid-pack result. We had what it took to compete for a title!”

Senior MAX – Sodi Kart (72 Drivers)

#312 – Cooper O’Clair

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Qualified: Top US Trophy Series Finisher

RMCGF Appearances: 2 – 2021, 2022 (Junior Max)

Overall Points: 31st – 81 points

Warm-up Final: 7th – 54.059 +0.395

Final: 22nd +11.245 – 53.931

Starting toward the back of the field, O’Clair was unable to advance forward in the early laps, sitting 34th after lap three. He was able to move up as the race progressed, reaching 24th by the checkered flag to cap off his Senior debut at the Rotax Grand Finals.


DD2 Masters – Charles Leclerc (36 Drivers)

#504 – Derek Wang

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Qualified: Canada Finals Champion

RMCGF Appearances: 11 – 2010, 2011 (DD2), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 (DD2 Masters)

Overall Points: 13th – 78 points

Warm-up Final: 17th – 53.794 +0.804

Final: 6th +11.614 – 53.609

While the pace was not there all week, luck and carnage were the highlight of Derek’s Final. He was shuffled back to 16th early on, however, drivers continued to wreck in front of him. Wang knifed through the incidents and found himself into sixth by lap 15. While trailing the fight for the podium, there was not enough pace to allow him a chance to challenge. It did however match his best result at the Rotax Grand Finals from 2021 in Bahrain. Wang has been the top finisher for Team USA for eight straight Rotax Grand Finals.

“The luck we were hoping for arrived! They say fortune favors the brave but in our case we were non-confrontational and had the least amount of fuel system issues. I’m starting to feel really old as the early thirty-somethings dominate the front of the class. I had fun and that’s all that matters in Masters.”

#524 – Billy Cleavelin

Hometown: Shell Beach, California

Qualified: Top US Trophy Series Finisher

RMCGF Appearances: 2 – 2016, 2017 (DD2 Masters)

Overall Points: 24th – 44 points

Warm-up Final: 20th – 53.913 +0.923

Final: 16th +26.159 – 53.804

The final international event for the veteran karter from the USA ended with a solid drive forward, running his quickest laps of the event and nearly reaching the top-15 to

Junior MAX – Praga (72 Drivers)

#224 – Nixx Eggleston

Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona

Qualified: Runner-up – US Trophy Final

RMCGF Appearances: 0

Overall Points: 22nd – 97 points

Warm-up Final: 7th – 55.170 +0.449

Final: 22nd +14.043 – 54.613

There was not much advancement in the 18-lap Final for Eggleston. He was shuffled as far back as 27th and got up to 21st late in the race until getting shuffled back to 25th at the checkered flag. Penalties put the Arizona driver into the same starting spot to close out his first RMCGF.

“The final was alright. I tried to go around on the outside and there was a wreck right in front of me. I was doing good on the first part of the race, then my kart fell off. We went back 3-4 positions on the last lap because of defending and getting pulled in the exit. Now that the event is completed, I am happy with myself and have come out as a better driver. I’m looking forward to coming back to Rotax Grand Finals in Sarno next year.

#257 – Giovanni Santora

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Qualified: Top US Trophy Series Finisher

RMCGF Appearances: 0

Overall Points: 56th – 43 points

Mini MAX – Birel ART (72 Drivers)

#127 – Gage Korn

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

Qualified: Runner-up – US Trophy Final

RMCGF Appearances: 2 – 2021, 2022 (Mini)

Overall Points: 42nd – 63 points

E10 Practice: 6th – 1:02.309 +0.553

E10 Qualifying: 2nd – 1:01.186

E10 Final: 6th +6.177 – 1:01.588

Unable to qualify for the Mini MAX main event, Korn was one of 12 drivers selected to take part in the inaugural E10 E-Kart Cup. That involved swapping out the Mini engine for an E10 powerplant on his same Birel ART kart last night. They got one session in before qualifying this morning. After qualifying second, he was shuffled back to seventh on the opening lap. He fought back to fourth but ended up sixth at the line.

“E-10 was definitely fun! I started second, we were told it was a standing start but turned out to be a rolling. I fell back to third on the first lap and was 10 kilos or 20 pounds overweight and tried my best to block but they would clear me before the corner and fell back to 6th at the end. Unfortunately, this race you need to have a little bit of luck and we had absolutely zero luck this to around. All in all the Rotax Grand Finals is always an amazing time! It’s a race you always want to come back to! To be in the same tent with people from around the world and make friends with them all is just special! This will not be my last time, I promise! Thanks to everyone who watched Team USA all week! Mega thanks to J3 Competition!”

#120 – Matteo Quinto

Hometown: Golden, Colorado

Qualified: Top US Trophy Series Finisher

RMCGF Appearances: 0

Overall Points: 17th – 120 points

Warm-up Final: 16th – 58.747 +0.524

Final: 28th +1 lap – 59.017

It was an impressive performance across the board in Bahrain for Quinto. He bounced around outside the top-10 until he broke through in the closing laps. That was until the final circuit when he retired, unable to reach the checkered flag in the only lap he did not complete on the week.

Micro MAX – Praga (36 Drivers)

#12 – Lucas Palacio

Hometown: Vienna, Virginia

Qualified: 1st – US Trophy Final

RMCGF Appearances: 0

Overall Points: 1st – 157 points

Warm-up: 6th – 1:01.695 +0.415

Final: DQ – 1:01.221

One of the most exciting finishes of the Rotax Grand Finals will not be remembered for what happened on the track. Palacio, starting on the pole position, fell back into the second spot early in the 12-lap Final. By lap eight, he was shuffled down to fourth and jostling continued for position until receiving the white flag while sitting fourth. He fought his way up into the second spot heading into the penultimate corner. Palacio was able to pull the over-under move and went on to take the checkered flag first. The celebration of a possible third victory for Team USA in the Micro division was cut short, as Palacio was removed from the results during tech inspection for engine oil amount. The results are under appeal.

“It is very unfortunate. The final was awesome and was a great race with some amazing competitors.  My experience was great at the event, won a heat, prefinal and final on track.  I’m happy with my performance and proud of our team.”


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?